PUMPKIN CENTER Ââ€”Early in the first quarter Tuesday night, North Lincolnâ€™s Stephanie Wooten changed directions by dribbling behind her back, leaving a Lake Norman Charter defender back-pedaling out of position.
That was nothing new for anyone whoâ€™s seen the senior guard handle the ball this season. What was new though was the club she entered when she drained a three-pointer at the top of the key after making the move.
Wooten collected her 1,000th career point with the long-range shot on her way to 17 points as North Lincoln remained undefeated in Southern Piedmont play with a 57-38 victory.
Was that how she drew up her milestone point?
â€œNot really. I was just happy,â€ Wooten said.
In the first half alone, she nearly compiled a complete list of the nightâ€™s top 10 plays. She found Lainey Livernois and Nicole Paysour open for three-pointers, hit Ace Easter in stride for a layup, had another thread-the-needle assist to Lauren Armstrong. She hit a twisting, acrobatic, spinning layup high off the backboard and, for good measure, banked in a three-pointer.
â€œShe is just the spark that gets this team going,â€ North Lincoln coach Lynn Rhyne said of Wooten. â€œSheâ€™s got excellent passing, she sees the floor, she can shoot, sheâ€™s got a three-point shot. Her years playing here–every year sheâ€™s just gotten better and better. Sheâ€™s had a couple of injuries and sheâ€™s come right through every one of them. Sheâ€™s just a phenomenal player. Sheâ€™s a great kid. She leads the team. She always gets us started and I think thatâ€™s the biggest thing.â€
On Tuesday night, she did just that. She scored 11 of her 17 points in the opening half before relinquishing scoring duties to sophomore Ace Easter, who tallied 20 of her game-high 22 points in the second half. During one third quarter stretch, Easter scored nine straight North Lincoln points on four free throws, a pull-up three-pointer and a running shot in the lane.
â€œThatâ€™s how they complement each other,â€ Rhyne said. â€œWhen oneâ€™s on, the other one knows it and steps back and when the other one gets on fire, the other one steps back. Itâ€™s just like they know how each otherâ€™s playing.â€
As good as the two were against Lake Norman Charter, the Knightsâ€™ 13th conference win in 13 tries wasnâ€™t a cakewalks. Lake Norman Charter (15-6, 9-4) scratched and clawed all night. An Abby Gregory basket cut North Lincolnâ€™s lead to 46-38 with 2:18 left, but the Knights sank 7 of 9 free throws to close the game on an 11-0 run.
The Knights (17-4, 13-0) travel to East Lincoln for the season finale before preparing for the postseason. Wooten said the goal now is simple.
â€œWe just have to go for it in the conference tournament and playoffs,â€ Wooten said.